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History of NBA Game 7's Since 2003

After the NBA regular season featured a high number of quality teams, amazing streaks, and fierce competition night after night, the start of the postseason has taken things up a notch by becoming the most even playoff in recent memory.

Since the 2003 postseason was modified to make every series a best-of-7 affair (previously the First Round was set to win 3 of 5), game 7's have been mostly scarce in the NBA. After all, playoff basketball is usually reserved for the very best teams and their consistency plays out to win early in the series.

However, the 2014 playoffs have sent that argument out the window by featuring a record-tying 5 series that were decided in a decisive game 7. This has been accomplished in only the First Round, which is quite surprising by itself. Today we take a look at how game 7's have been distributed since the format change of 2003 and you will see why the 2014 playoffs have been such a big anomaly.

Since the start of the 2003 playoffs up to the end of the 2013 postseason, there were a total of 165 playoff series with only 32 going to the limit. That is only 19.39% of the series played, with a very low average of 2.9 game 7's per year. The distribution of these games has gone like this:

       NBA PLAYOFF SERIES 2003-2013    
Round Game 7's Total Series Pct. Game 7's Home Wins Road Wins Avg. Winning Margin
First Round 14 88 15.91% 10 4 17.42
Conf. Semis 12 44 27.27% 9 3 13.66
Conf. Finals 3 22 13.64% 2 1 14
NBA Finals 3 11 27.27% 3 0 6

So far, the first round of the 2014 playoffs has gone against everything the last decade of NBA playoffs had offered.






Game 7's

Total Series

Pct. Game 7's

Home Wins

Road Wins

Avg. Winning Margin

First Round







As we can see, home field advantage has been very important in do-or-die games in the NBA, with the home teams winning 28 of the 37 games number 7 since 2003. The letdown has been that while game 7's in baseball and hockey are usually full of drama and feature some of the most memorable moments for fans, in basketball these games have normally been blowouts in every round except the Finals.

This situation may stem from the fact that usually underdogs are worn out by the end of each series, while being at home tends to prove a huge advantage for the team that was better during the regular season. Also, during this span there has only been one game 7 that went to overtime: when the Mavericks beat the Spurs in San Antonio the 2006 Western Conference Semifinals.

During this span, 19 game 7's have taken place between teams in the East, with the remaining 15 belonging to the West. The top 5 franchises in number of decisive games played since 2003 have been:

- Boston Celtics: 8 (4-4)
- Miami Heat: 6 (4-2)
- Dallas Mavericks: 5 (4-1)
- San Antonio Spurs: 5 (3-2)
- Detroit Pistons: 5 (4-1)

Actually, the Celtics are the all-time leaders in game 7's played with 29 (21-8).

So as the playoffs advance, the probability of further game 7's in the 7 rounds that are yet to be played is high. This postseason could end up becoming a classic, so let's hope that the games maintain this level of parity and that each decisive game gets the drama and emotion that the playoffs deserve.


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